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Closing the gender pay gap in higher education will take forty years

Posted by Sian Webb on 19-Feb-2018 16:08:27

With Gapsquare, we can do it by 2034

The University and College Union announced last year that it was going to take forty years for the gender pay gap in UK higher education to close.

For academics, the gap stands at 12% and has been slowly decreasing in the last few years.

The UCU says that this equates to a shortfall of £6,103 per year for each female academic. In total, this £528 million per year. 

The gap is also larger at the so-called ‘elite’ Russell Group institutions at 16.3%. With less than six weeks to go before the gender pay gap reporting deadline, none of these institutions have reported.

Six Steps to Gender Pay Gap Reporting


In fact, less than 3% of universities have reported into the government portal - out of 109 universities in England, and 130 in the UK, only 3 have submitted: Leeds Art University, University of Salford and University of Kent. At the current pace of change, by the time I retire, the gender pay gap will still exist in academia.


What can we learn from the three universities that have reported?


 1. Progression of women in academia has stagnated

In the case of University of Leeds data by quartiles highlight that one of the reasons for the gap is the higher number of males at senior levels. Further, when breaking down the gap by job level, they noticed that there were more men at the higher points of the level, suggesting that men were more likely to progress and receive promotions. The University of Kent also concluded that the main reason for their gap was that there were more men in higher job levels.

Across the UK, over half of academics are women, yet only 23% of professors are women.

Whilst women dominate in their early careers, as seniority and length of service increase, the percentage of women in senior positions decreases. The systemic problems that are hindering female progression can be found within the processes universities set up to for reaching professorship.

Unlike other industries in which subconscious bias and informal culture of promotion have a role to play in the slow career progression of women, academic institutions have the additional hurdle to overcome in the processes set up that stagger progression for women.


2. The gap is wider for part-time staff

At the University of Salford, the gap for part-time staff was wider than for full time. Yet, they stated that there was more work needed to understand the reasons behind why this was the case.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies highlighted a few weeks ago that the effect of part-time work in wage progression is striking. In general, people in paid work see their pay rise year on year, whereas part-time workers miss out on these rises, and this accounts for an important part of the gender pay gap.

Further, McKinsey research states that one of the biggest fears women have on working part time is around lack of promotion and progression opportunities.

The University of Salford is now considering increasing part-time roles in male-dominated professions.


3. Moving beyond gender pay gap requirements is a necessity

The Equality Challenge Unit is encouraging universities to extend their analysis and cover a “detailed and meaningful equal pay review”. Both Kent and Salford have committed to this.

Going beyond the headline reporting requirements helps universities understand the core issues that exist within their academic structures – this can include pay gaps by ethnicity, age and disability so that they can put in place an action plan that words for everyone.

At Gapsquare, our software allows universities to:

  • Analyse their gap by length of service AND job level – you can immediately see if career promotion is a causer of the gap
  • Analyse your gap by part time or full time staff – you can break this down to better understand the impact that roles, rewards and opportunities have on wage compensation models
  • Conduct high level reviews of your salary structures as well as Equal Pay Audits


Only when universities take positive proactive measures to understand and monitor their gaps will they be able to properly address and tackle the higher education gender gap. The worrying part is that the headline figures need for gender pay gap reporting should be the bare minimum. It is the further detailed analysis that takes more time. Hopefully that is why less than 3% have reported ….


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Tags: gender pay gap reporting, gender pay gap in higher education, gender pay gap university